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Anti-tax Activist Defends Holocaust Comparison

A top anti-tax activist and White House ally is standing by his comparison of proponents of the estate tax to the perpetrators of the Holocaust, while taking the analogy further and dismissing his critics as “socialists.”

“The Nazis were for gun control, the Nazis were for high marginal tax rates,” said Grover Norquist in an interview with the Forward. “Do you want to talk about who’s closer politically to national socialism, the Right or the Left?”

Norquist said his comments were entirely reasonable because he was drawing comparisons to misguided socialist policies. He also sought to distinguish his comments from two 30-second videos comparing President Bush to Adolf Hitler that were temporarily posted on the Web site MoveOn.org.

“Theirs was a deliberate effort to smear,” Norquist said of the videos, which were posted as entries in a MoveOn.org contest soliciting model campaign ads. In a telephone call to the Forward and in later statements to the general press, MoveOn.org founder Wes Boyd voiced “regret for not having filtered … out” the Bush-as-Hitler submissions. He noted that the controversial ads “of course got very bad scores and are not at all finalists in our contest.”

Republicans and conservative pundits who were quick to slam MoveOn.org have refused to speak out against Norquist and New York Post columnist Ralph Peters, who compared opponents of the Bush administration to Nazis. But at least one prominent Republican, Fred Zeidman, is criticizing Norquist.

“What he’s trying to do is use the single worst thing that happened in 20th century to try and magnify the effect of what he’s saying politically, and I think utilization for that purpose is wrong,” said Zeidman, who serves as vice chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition and was tapped by Bush to be chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement last week calling on both parties to refrain from using Holocaust language as a political attack tool.

Norquist, however, told the Forward that he would not hesitate to use Holocaust comparisons in the future.

“The Left has misused the Hitler analogy for the past 50 years in defense of the socialists and the communists,” Norquist said. “All my life Richard Nixon was a ‘Nazi,’ and Reagan was a ‘Nazi,’ and everybody on the right was a ‘Nazi.’ That’s what the left does. That’s their one standard thing.”

When told of Norquist’s claims about the Left, Zeidman said: “I think that’s absurd. Did he not grow up in a house where two wrongs don’t make a right?”

Norquist and Republicans who have opted not to criticize him are drawing heavy criticism from Democrats. Ann Lewis, an official at the Democratic National Committee who served as White House communications director in the Clinton administration, questioned whether some Republicans are simply afraid to take on Norquist.

Norquist “continues to defend his use of the analogy and will continue to do so and, when pushed on it, says, ‘Well, 30 years ago people used names I don’t like,’” Lewis said. “There could not be a clearer moral difference. My position and that of a great majority of Americans is that misusing analogies to Hitler or to the Holocaust or to National Socialism debases the terms, dilutes the historical impact and distorts our ability to learn from history.”

Jack Abramoff, a close friend of Norquist’s and a prominent Republican lobbyist, said that Norquist is being unfairly lampooned and argued that it’s unreasonable to completely limit discussion of the Holocaust. Asked where he would draw the line between “reasonable” and “unreasonable” Holocaust analogies, Abramoff said it was very much subjective and imprecise.

“If it’s mentioned every time your opponent disagrees with you, that’s inappropriate,” Abramoff said. “On the other hand, is it reasonable to say no one can ever discuss the evil of Nazis and learn lessons from it in the current political climate? It takes a reasonable balance and that’s always going to be subjective.”

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